Ram Hoops Scoop: Avenging a rivalry loss and now facing one of league’s best

Throughout the 2022-23 basketball season, Colorado State senior guard John Tonje will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance in recent games, preview upcoming games, and more, here in Ram Hoops Scoop. Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for John, fellow basketball NIL partner Tavi Jackson, and other student athlete partners.

Less than a month after Air Force came into Moby Arena rolled to an 85-74 win over the Rams, you guys returned the favor, beating up the Falcons on the road 69-53. What did the team do better in this latest matchup?

I think we learned from the film and really took our matchup and rivalry personally. In the first game we gave up tons of offensive rebounds and were slow to the 50/50 balls, but this game we won that battle and ultimately that was the difference.

You personally had a tremendous game, playing all but seven minutes, shooting 9 of 13 from the field (including 2-for-3 from three) for 21 points. Talk about how you got in a groove and what was working for you.

I wanted to be aggressive and attack the zone better than I did in game 1 with Air Force. The film was pretty ugly, but I had to learn from it and study my spots to attack. We also made an offensive adjustment that opened up driving lanes and I took advantage of that.

When the Rams win on the road, the team has a tradition of stopping at a local convenience store and grabbing a bunch of snacks. What are your go-to choices?

I have a big sweet tooth so I’m big on candies like skittles, gummy candy, or peanut butter M&Ms!! 

With guys like Jacob Jennissen, Kyle Evans, and Josiah Strong out for the rest of the season, and Jalen Lake (concussion) and Tavi Jackson (illness) also missing the past couple of games, you guys have been extremely short handed. How does that affect you mentally and physically?

It’s definitely not how I expected my senior season to go missing out on key guys I was excited to play with in the summer. For me, I feel for those guys and hate that I can’t play with them, but it’s just added adversity, which I have always enjoyed. Short-handed teams rely heavily on the few guys they have so I’ve been trying to do my best with my opportunity on this team.

Your fellow senior, Isaiah Stevens moved into third on the CSU men’s basketball career scoring list against Air Force. A few weeks ago he broke the career assists record on a dish to you for a three-pointer. First, what does being a part of that record-breaking play mean to you? And second, playing alongside Isaiah what do you see that makes him such a special player?  

It is cool to know that he got his record-breaking assist to me, and I would say I’m pretty lucky to be a part of it. I’m just glad I made the shot. What sets Stevens apart is his competitiveness and relentlessness — especially down the line in big games, even through fatigue he never shows it and he keeps making plays.

You’ve played in the Mountain West Conference for four seasons. Do you think this is the strongest the league has been since you’ve been here?

I think the league is definitely best this year top to bottom. Some years in the past have been top heavy but this year there’s a decent level of competition in the bottom teams that may not have been the case in previous years.

Has coach Medved/the team talked about a goal of moving up in the standings to avoid the 10 vs. 11 seed play-in game in the Mountain West tournament? Talk about why that’s important to the team to avoid that game and give yourself the best chance to make a run.

That isn’t something we discussed because it seems so far down the line and we are just focused game by game. Seeding will take care of itself if we focus on being better day by day.

Up next, the Rams host the Boise State Broncos Wednesday at Moby Arena. They’re 19-6 overall, 9-3 in league play, and have their sights set on a Mountain West championship. What can you tell us about their personnel and what you have to do to beat them?  

Boise is a good offensive team and maybe an even better defensive team. We have to slow them down in transition — especially guards like Marcus Shaver that want to get in the paint. We also have to limit offensive rebounds and make sure we take care of the ball. Their big man Tyson Degenhart is also a load in the post so we definitely have to key in on him as well. 

Good luck to the Rams!


About our student athlete

John is a senior leader out of Omaha, Neb. and one of the top scorers on the team. He is considered one of the founding building blocks that has turned around the men’s basketball program. He is a major in Business; Finance and Real Estate; Business Administration. He also has an interest in fashion design and is starting his own clothing line. You can read all his “Ram Hoops Scoop” features here

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